California

Whistleblower prison psychiatrist won’t have to testify Monday, judge rules

Attorney discusses claim that state is misleading federal court on mental health care

Michael Bien, the lead attorney for 30,000 California inmates who need mental health care, discusses the accusation by the state's chief prison psychiatrist that state officials are providing misleading and inaccurate data on how it treats inmates.
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Michael Bien, the lead attorney for 30,000 California inmates who need mental health care, discusses the accusation by the state's chief prison psychiatrist that state officials are providing misleading and inaccurate data on how it treats inmates.

California’s top prison psychiatrist will not have to testify Monday about his allegations that corrections officials provided misleading and inaccurate information to a federal judge, but he likely will be called later as the case unfolds.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller issued an order Friday afternoon excusing Dr. Michael Golding from appearing at the hearing the judge had ordered, a step she took after reviewing a sworn declaration from Golding about his allegations in which he suggested that the report should be made public with some portions redacted.

“Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis famously stated, ‘Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman,’ ” Golding’s declaration states.

The 160-page report compiled by Golding alleges officials with his employer, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, provided misleading information to Mueller and to attorneys for prison inmates about the level and frequency of the psychiatric care they receive.

The report remains in the hands of the judge and the lawyers. But the filing by Golding and his lawyer, Wendy Musell, made it clear Golding sees the report as being of great public interest.

“There can be no question that the matters raised in the Coleman v. Edmund G. Brown case and in Dr. Golding’s CDCR Mental Health Performance Report are matters of great public concern and implicate public safety and the proper administration of justice, thereby furthering a compelling public interest,” the document states.

“It is Dr. Golding’s position that names and identifying information of patients should not be disclosed (publicly), absent express patient consent,” the document says. “For this reason, Dr. Golding provided the CDCR Mental Health Performance Report and attachments in a redacted form, redacting patient information and identifying information from the report and attachments thereto.

“Further, Dr. Golding provides no position whether any employee’s names should be redacted, and leave that to the parties’ argument and sound discretion of the Court.”

Golding’s report, which he secretly leaked two weeks ago to the federal receiver overseeing medical care inside the state institutions, has spawned a new legal battle between CDCR and the inmates’ attorneys, as well as questions from the judge about whether corrections officials committed “fraud upon the court.”

Mueller has said she intends to investigate that aspect of the case, and expects Golding to be called at some point.

Attorneys for Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration sought to block Golding from testifying Monday, saying they needed more time to prepare. They also said they wanted to investigate the claims contained in Golding’s report but were unable to do so because of restrictions placed on them by Mueller.

Golding has yet to speak publicly about his findings, and his attorney has said Golding is deeply concerned about the prospect of corrections officials retaliating against him.

Musell filed documents Wednesday asking the judge to ensure “any investigation or interview related to his report comply with California’s whistleblowing statutes,” and writing that “Dr. Golding, at significant personal and professional risk, has raised matters of great public concern and has not engaged in any alleged wrongdoing.”

Mueller has ordered CDCR not to retaliate against Golding or anyone who may have helped him with the report, which also has 60 exhibits.

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